Monday, August 17, 2009

The Use of Web 2.0 by Military Families

From the Wikinomics Blog:

The Use of Web 2.0 by Military Families: "

On August 6, the Department of Defense sparked a discussion on their Web 2.0 Guidance Forum (a blog used to “engage the public in considerations of web 2.0 capabilities”) asking military families about the value of social media in keeping in touch with loved ones. They asked three questions:

1. How valuable and what are the benefits of Web 2.0/social media tools to military families with love ones who are deployed? Is this a critical necessity, or merely a useful addition to your options?

2. What impact would there be to families, with loves ones who are deployed, if Web 2.0/social media tools were NOT available to military members serving over seas?

3. When communicating with your love ones who are deployed, which social medium do you use most frequently?

The result has been an incredible 230+ comments, many of which are carefully crafted responses telling personal stories.

I thought I’d point out a few of those responses here:

“When my husband first deployed to Iraq in 2002 we used chat with webcam alot. This allowed our son then aged 2 1/2 the chance to see Daddy and communicate with him. For the longest time he was convinced his Daddy lived in the computer. It also allowed my husband to watch our newborn baby grow up and regularily hear his cries. The interaction that the social networking sites allow the soldiers and the families are of utmost importance–it makes the seperation a little bit easier by allowing the soldier a glimpse into the daily happenings at home.”

“Without the social networking tools, the immediate communication will be lost unless they can get a call thru and there isn’t always time to stand in a line and wait to use the phone. The nice thing is they can go to any base or outpost that has internet and get a quick message thru to say “hey I’m ok” when on a long mission or they aren’t back when expected due to problems. I also know of other families that would use the video feature on different messaging software to see their children. I would say there isn’t even a word for the peace of mind it gives parents, spouses, etc to be able to have almost immediate contact with their soldier and Marine.”

“Generationally, we have seen communications methods change in a deployed environment from letter writing, telephone calls e-mail to social media networks, each with accessibility, timeliness and cost pros/cons. The current generation has grown up with the hi-tech / real-time communications options and the previous generations are adopting them. If the tools were not available, I think it would adversely affect morale and possibly lead to decreased enlistment/re-enlistment. Perhaps some partnership can be accomplished between DoD and the media providers to better secure these sites or communities within those sites for military member use.”

“As an ex military member and a spouse whose husband is currently deployed, I say Security and Safety are first and foremost. We personally only use email correspondence and are looking into web cams but are concerned about security of his location. I agree these social networks can be great morale boosters however, if these are in anyway unsecure and can place our troops and/or their mission in harms way then stop them now, no questions asked!!!! Years ago families survived without them and although I know they are wonderful for morale, unless the governement can be 100% certain that no breech of security exists by using these then I say better safe than sorry and we can learn to live without them.”

I’d encourage users to visit the forum and scroll through some of the responses. They paint an amazing picture of how consumer Web 2.0 technologies have allowed those deployed to keep in touch. Through the forum, the DoD was also able to get a feel for what tools are important for families (Facebook and Skype seem to be the most popular) and what some of the risks might be (e.g. a webcam revealing someone’s location). As stated in a followup post, the next steps will be learning how to mitigate those risks and implementing training programs and policies to allow families to safely use social media tools.


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